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metropolitan piccadilly

#69: Uxbridge – 02/10/2019

I return to Uxbridge today, this time to complete the final leg of the Piccadilly line’s ‘end of the line’. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I thought I had covered the town pretty well on my first visit, but…

The Station

When I was here earlier in the summer, I spent some time exploring the station so I decided to walk through this time and head for the town centre instead. Because of this though, I did stop at other stations on the line as my day comes to an end, so read on and see where else I have been.

The Town Centre

So who knew Uxbridge has a runway? Well in truth it doesn’t, but this view from the top of the Cedars Car Park made me think ‘what if?’. It’s a view looking north easterly from the top floor of the empty car park and the empty blue sky combines nicely with the parallel lines on the surface giving the impression that it’s a runway.

At the north end of the High Street, it’s market day so I have a chance to do some people watching, and this shot of workmen at rest eating their lunch outside the Pavilions shopping centre catches my eye. Their high vis jackets complementing their soft drink bottle colouring quite nicely.

The shopping centre itself is a little old and tired, it’s an open style market place with fixed and temporary stalls in the main square. But in fairness, the centre has made some effort to spruce the place up as this view suggests. It’s of the overhead walkways that joins the car park to a central lift shaft in the middle of the market area; it’s an interesting ‘upside down’ view from the reflective mirrors on the underside of the walkways.

At the southern end of the High Street is the old Regal Cinema proudly showing off its art deco exterior. It’s now a nightclub and despite a multi-million renovation over 10 years ago, I think sadly its glory days as a cinema are long gone.

Nearby, and returning to the aeronautical theme of earlier, I cross the main road to the land which was once the proud home of RAF Uxbridge and Hillingdon House. It’s now another of London’s  fashionable property developments, this one by St Modwen, and as I walk outside the building site I come to the end of one of the buildings. This one is a three storey building with doors leading nowhere, but what makes the picture more interesting is that the sun peeks out from behind the clouds and casts this majestic tree shadow.

Before leaving town, I walk through Uxbridge’s new Intu shopping centre, where there’s a display showing that the town is the birthplace of the once infamous Christine Keeler. For those of you born after the 1960’s, look her up; and apparently the chair on which she sat on for the renowned photo-shoot in 1963 is now on show in the V&A Museum.

The Grand Union Canal

The canal is less than half a kilometre from the town centre, so what better way to spend part of the day than walking canal side for a mile or so with the sun shining and colourful river boats for company. My starting point is at Uxbridge Lock (Lock No 88)

I follow the path under The Swan and Bottle Bridge (no 185) and over The Bell Punch Footbridge (no 185A) where for part of my walk, I’m accompanied by a swan and and her ten signets. She keeps a wary eye on me as I walk by, but I wonder where the dad is as there’s no sign of him.

The path takes me under The Dolphin Bridge (no 186) and I finally leave the canal at Gas Works Bridge (no 187). By the way, all bridges and locks are numbered across the British Waterways, so next time you’re walking under/over one, look out for the numbered plate. The following is a small collection of the colourful views from beside the river

Out of Uxbridge

Today’s end of the line visit is courtesy of the Piccadilly line, but to be honest it’s a shared line with the Metropolitan line from Rayners Lane where the final seven stops are served by the same track. The Piccadilly line out to Uxbridge started life as the District line but only as far as South Harrow when in 1910 the Uxbridge extension was completed. Its conversion to the Piccadilly line took place in 1933.

Hillingdon – this is the first station out of Uxbridge and its full name is Hillingdon (Swakeleys) as evidenced on its roundel. Why? Well I can only presume it’s a reference to the once Manor of Swakeleys, and now Swakeleys House, which is only a short distance from the station.

Hillingdon is a bit of a pass through location, but its position right on the A40 Western Avenue makes it an ideal spot for commuters. My visit here is somewhat sobering as I’m reminded right outside the station of the frailty of life as I read the messages laid in tribute to one of London’s most recent fatal stabbings. Young Tashan Daniel, on his way to watch Arsenal play, football at The Emirates Stadium, was attacked on the station and fatally wounded. My thoughts go out to his family and those affected by this event.

Mystery Station – my final picture is of Labyrinth maze number 32/270 from Mark Wallinger’s collection which was commissioned by Transport for London (Tfl) to commemorate 150 years of the London Underground. Post a message to let me know where I ended my day’s journey.

Picture of the Day

This is my first picture of the day taken inside the flight of stairs leading to the top of Cedars Car Park from High Street above Tesco. I’m drawn in by the red and green colouring of the stairwell I see from the street so I decide to traverse the stairwell, and my curiosity to see Uxbridge town centre from the rooftop is piqued.

It’s the type of stair well you’d rather not go into as it smells of urine; although I have to say it was relatively clean. I had no expectation of finding anything of interest but after walking up the first flight of stairs, this image is staring back at me.

I’m intrigued by the graffitti as its socio/political statement is clearly directed at the Town’s Member of Parliament who is also the current (at the time of writing) Prime Minister. The ‘statement’ raises the question in my mind as to whether the ‘artist’ is dyslexic, or that they have decided out of respect not to spell the swear word in full. But amusingly they are quite content to bedaub a publicly accessible wall in a somewhat hidden position where only a few passers by will see it. 

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 53mm; Film Speed – ISO2000; Google filter effect – Auto

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northern

#68: Finchley Central – 24/09/2019

Central Finchley is the other end of the Mill Hill East daytime shuttle service I wrote about earlier in April, and today I walk about five miles up and down Regent’s Park Road, Ballard Lane and High Road into North Finchley.

Finchley residents may disagree with me, but I only find a few places of passing interest, so I try to make the most of their history here. The majority of the day is about dodging torrential downpours, and whilst most of those out and about find this to be a troublesome inconvenience, I take full advantage to capture the mood of the changing weather conditions. But first…

The Station

This is one of three stations that carries the ‘Finchley’ name, all along the Barnet branch of the Northern Line; East Finchley and West Finchley being the other two. The station is typically Victorian retaining most of its original features, although this could have been quite different had plans to redevelop the rail network under the auspices of the Northern Heights Plan in the early part of the 20th Century materialised. However the Second World War scuppered those plans due to the cost of rebuilding the network after the war damage.

Access to its three platforms is gained from both the north and the south side of the railway line via Chaville Way and Station Road respectively, with a footbridge connecting all three platforms.

Local Landmarks

This is a busy part of London with a diverse community served by a thriving mix of independent shops ranging from ethnic eateries and groceries, beauty shops and barbers, charity shops, and thankfully only a few national chains. The link (above) does much to provide a history of the area, so I’ll not try to compete with this save for the following landmarks:

King Edward Hall – A prominent Grade II listed building situated in the convergence of Hendon Lane and Regent’s Park Road. It was built in 1911-12 as a private banqueting hall on the upper floors with shops on the ground floor; interestingly though it was used as a temporary hospital during the First World War. Currently in a somewhat dilapidated state, its restoration is now being considered. 

Manor Farm Dairy – across the road on the corner of Victoria Avenue is a corner shop underneath flats in an impressive red bricked building. Look to the top and you’ll see set in each of the three facets the name ‘Manor Farm Dairy’. A little research through the annals of the British History Online site indicates the Dairy was founded c. 1875 by Joseph Wilmington Lane and joined in the 1920’s with United Dairies, which had been founded in 1917. From the middle ages, historical data shows the area was dominated by several Manors, each with their own dairies, and this unrelated article in The Times gives an interesting insight into the plight of dairies in their formative years.

Newton Wright Limited – All that remains of this maker of x-ray equipment and scientific instruments is what I presume to be the factory gates which now sit proudly on Ballards Lane. Sadly the factory which once stretched as far back as 30 houses behind Ballards Lane is now itself a housing estate.

Joiners Arms – diagonally across the road, and next to Tesco is this rustic inspired pub. As most high street pubs do these days, they have to cater for what their clientele want and so they offer sports TV to attract and retain their customers. Nevertheless, their exterior is attractive and well maintained, and they have creatively adopted the modern wall art genre to advertise themselves.

Grand Arcade, North Finchley – this arcade epitomises art deco at its grandest, but to see it you really have to look deep into the gloom as the arcade is largely unloved and has been left to deteriorate. A campaign against its demolition and replacement with modern offices and flats is being lead by Dave Davis, lead guitarist of The Kinks.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day

Today’s forecast is thundery downpours and I wish I’d prepared a bit better as I’m under dressed when the rain comes. The sky darkens ominously quickly and there is little doubt what is about to happen but I remain undeterred as I capture the moody skyline.

When the downpour comes, I’m at the front entrance to Tesco, cowering under a very narrow ledge that barely manages to keep me dry. But the spectacle of the rain bouncing back from the steamy pavement is too much to ignore so I set my camera near to the ground and capture the image created as the sun starts to re-emerge. People rushing by, eager to get under cover, seem oblivious to my presence so I’m able to get some interesting shots.

Once the rain stops, I carry on along Ballards Lane and stop at Lovers Walk, a small passageway which seems to invite me in to take its picture, but I can’t find a composition that works well. Almost walking away, I realise I’m leaning against a litter bin and notice its two open mouths face through to the passageway and this creates a different perspective. As I crouch down, I spot a young couple walking through the frame and I set about taking a series of shots composing their approach as the centrepiece; and they oblige unwittingly by keeping to the centre of the path.

Picture of the Day

I’d intended to have a predominantly black and white day to help capture the moody weather conditions, but when I saw this wall, it simply wouldn’t have worked in B&W. The location is on the side of a closed and disheveled restaurant, the Central Restaurant, part of the Central House tower block complex on the corner of Ballard Lane and Nether Street.

It’s a very simple scene as this part of the wall has been painted in these three bright colours. The taking of the picture was less than simple as I’m positioned on the opposite side of the road, my camera low on the ground, and waiting for traffic queueing at the nearby traffic lights to move along. I’m keen to get a shot uninterrupted by cars, but this setting only gives me about two to three seconds every three minutes or so as the lights change and traffic moves by. I end up taking several shots to get the one I want, with the added challenge in that the sky is getting darker by the minute and about to pour, so there’s some additional pressure not to get wet as well.

I set my camera in ‘art vivid’ mode which creates an enhanced effect by taking three consecutive shots with slightly different settings. The camera software then stitches the individual pictures into one creating heightened colours. I’m pleased with the outcome but realise that the vanilla shot (with no traffic) lacks something in the composition, and I believe this one with a ghostly image of a car just entering the frame on the left hand side helps with the picture’s story. The effect is created by the image of the car being taken on the third shot and appears somewhat shadowy when stitched with the other two pictures. 

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Auti; Camera effect – Vivid

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dlr

#67: Beckton – 02/09/2019

Let me start this week’s travelog with a question: What’s the connection between my visit to Beckton and Burt Bacharach? Vague I know, but in 1965 (and alas I remember it well!), he composed ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ originally recorded by Billy J Kramer (and the Dakotas) and later in 1996 by Dionne Warwick. You can listen to their versions on YouTube.

You see, today is a story of trains and boats and planes and a few cyclists thrown in for good measure too. Read on and enjoy the unexpected surprises I discovered on my nine kilometre walk from Beckton through North Woolwich and Silvertown.

To be honest I’m a little undecided on my camera settings for the day, but after a few colour shots in and around the station, I decide to settle on a predominantly black and white day again. Today I’m fixed on ISO 400 as I believe with the strong light I’ll have a little more control on the aperture/speed combination. I do take a few colour shots where I believe the scene warranted it. You can let me know if you agree with me.

Trains

Beckton and Gallions Reach are the two that feature today as well as the new Elizabeth Line running under the Thames emerging in Silvertown.

Beckton DLR – now when you look at the tube map you’d be inclined to think that Beckton station is the furthest east on the DLR network. But when you look on the map, and travel on it, you realise that the DLR arcs in a loop back on itself after Cyprus through Gallions Reach before terminating at Beckton. Gallions Reach DLR – is actually the most easterly DLR station by a whisker.

The station is a typically open DLR station with a modernist style overlooked by shrubbery hiding the surrounding housing estates. And across the road guarding the entrance of the bus station is the sculpture ‘Horses’ – depicting two horses created in steel by the artist Brian Yale.

The bus station shares its space with a large Asda superstore, beyond which is Beckton’s social hub with its library and adult education centre with an aspirational name – the Beckton Globe: quite different to Shakespeare’s version.

I write about Gallions Reach under my Picture of the Day, but on my way there I take a slight detour as I’m seduced by four decorative bridge posts I can see from afar. They’re on a one way road feeding via Royal Docks Road, an extension of the North Circular as it crosses the main A13 arterial road headed towards Beckton. At the top of the bridge, there’s evidence that it had been planned to go elsewhere as there’s a fenced off section where the road comes to an abrupt end. Research indicates there were plans quite some time ago to build a bridge over the Thames at this point over to Thamsemead, however this never materialised. This link offers an artist’s impression of how the bridge would have fitted in. So now it’s almost a one way road to nowhere; sadly though I can’t find any reference behind the intricacy of the bridge architecture. I wonder if there’s any significance with the area’s dockland history? If you know, please drop me a message.

So on to the Elizabeth Line.

Later in the day I’m walking along the back streets in Silvertown, returning from the Thames headed towards City Airport, and along one side of the road there’s a high concrete wall running its length. I give it a cursory glance noticing overhead power lines and without thinking I dismiss it as an established rail route. I pass the LCM Scrap Company Ltd and admire their high rise metal sculptures on either side of their main entrance, and a little later I pass the Tate & Lyle factory which I have admired from afar many a time. They proudly display the fact that they have been ‘Keeping The Nation Sweet For 140 Years’.

Turning back to face the road I see the upper part of a bright yellow engineering train on the railway line emblazoned with the Elizabeth Line logo. I then realise this is part of the new route which emerges from under the Thames nearby from Woolwich en route to Custom House and all points west.

I soon see evidence of the Elizabeth Line’s continuing building works a little further along surrounding the proudly restored St Marks Church, the home of the acclaimed Brick Lane Music Hall which has occupied this site since 2003.

Planes

From Gallions Reach, I continue south and head over the Sir Steve Redgrave bridge which spans Gallions Point Marina and London City Airport into North Woolwich. As I approach the centre of the bridge, I look east and see two bright lights high in the sky heading towards me. Now having spent many a journey travelling through London City Airport, I know that planes land in one of two directions depending on the prevailing wind. Today the wind was blowing from a westerly direction so planes were arriving and landing from the east.

This was a perfect spot for plane watching; one I took full advantage of as I set my stall out at the mid point and waited for the overhead planes to approach. I must have been there for about half an hour all told, and I didn’t seem to disturb the local police who passed me several times in their transit vans.

At this point, the planes have descended quite rapidly as the landing strip is no more than 300 metres away, and I’m standing in line with the landing beacons that guide the planes to ground. I can see the pilots quite clearly in their cockpits as they control their flights masterfully against the blustery side winds which sees some of the planes rock from side to side. I’ve been in some of those planes as they’ve approached the runway and it makes for an interesting arrival.

Later in the day, and as I end today’s travels on the other side of London City Airport, I stand and admire ‘Athena’ the tallest, at 12 metres high, bronze sculpture in the UK (as at 2012). The sculpture was created by Nasser Azam and designed to be visible to air travellers from the sky as they approach the airport.

Boats

In all my 30 years living and working in London, I’d never experienced the Woolwich Ferry crossing. I’d heard many a news report that the ferry wasn’t running for one reason or another, so as I found myself so close to the North terminal, I headed there just to see. There are messages that there’s a delay of 1 hour as only one ferry is operating, but that doesn’t deter cars and lorries queuing up. I walk past the old North Woolwich station converted into a museum and now closed, and I decide I’ll walk under the river and return by ferry.

I don’t think the Woolwich Foot tunnel is as well advertised as the one in Greenwich, but it has all the Victorian characteristics of its counterpart: over a 100 steps down (there is a lift), tiled walls throughout which reflect an eerie glow from the dimly lit overhead lights. Despite painted notices on the ground every 20 metres or so instructing there to be ‘No Cycling’, they had no effect on all the cyclists who use the walkway as a shortcut under the river. More later.

I took a series of shots but felt this one in colour best reflected the walkway; the meaningless overhead traffic lights directing which side to walk being ignored by everyone, but the colour effect casts an interesting glow. Oh yes, two girls descending in the lift have a blast, and as they walk along, singing at the top of their voices are clearly enjoying the echo effect they create.

Up the 101 steps on the south shore, I head for the ferry that’s just docking and walk on freely; you see there’s no charge for pedestrians or vehicles. The view looking west from the middle of the Thames is quite surreal with the Thames Barrier in the distance with each gate’s traffic lights directing where boats should pass. It’s a relatively short journey across the river.

Cyclists

Now a shout out to to five cyclists I met during the day. First to Mahammad, Andre, Lucas and Edward. Four young lads who were practicing wheelies in the Asda car park when I walked through earlier in the day. I stop to ask them if they’d be happy to be photographed, and after a short conflab amongst themselves they seemed happy to pose. This is a short collection showing their various skills during their valiant ( and safe) efforts up and down the car park. Thanks lads and I hope you enjoy them?

My final shout out is to Samson who I met in the Woolwich foot tunnel. He was riding through and I happened to be standing by a No Cycling sign at the time and I tried, unsuccessfully, to capture the moment. Anyway, a few seconds later he returned asking to see the pic and explaining it hadn’t quite worked, he agreed to repeat the effort and help me to recreate the moment. I wanted to reflect the moody lighting of the tunnel and capture the motion, so I avoided using a flash and panned the shots as Samson rode past. I believe this one captures that effect; so thanks again Samson, and great to have met you.

The Thames

During the day I find myself walking along the river bank several times. First through Gallions Point, past Barge House Causeway, along Royal Victoria Gardens and later along the footpath adjacent to Pier Road. Here are some of the images I captured.

Another successful day…

Picture of the Day

From Beckton I walk down Woolwich Manor Way to Gallions Reach DLR station which is surrounded by a large, empty paved area. I guess during peak travel times this is busy as commuters either make their way home or divert to the nearby shopping park. Anyhow, as I take a breather, I notice the enclosed walkways from the raised platforms to ground level have a distinct pattern; and with the afternoon sun streaming through, it casts dramatic shadows which I sense will make for a good shot.

I set my camera on the ground using my trusty bean bags (best investment next to a tripod) to help steady the shot, and with minor placement adjustments I’m pleased with how I capture the contrasting shadows. Passengers have just alighted from a recently departed train and I realise  I need to capture their movement to complete this picture. Alas I’ve just missed that opportunity so I set the camera and wait for the next train. You know what, it always seems longer when you’re waiting for something, but probably no more than 10 minutes later I get my chance as another Beckton bound train arrives.

The passenger’s black and white attire complements the shadow effect perfectly, and her gaze away from the camera somehow represents some disdain at being photographed, but she doesn’t challenge me as she passes by. I quite like the end result.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ29; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google filter effect – Vista; Camera effect – B&W

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central

#66: West Ruislip – 27/08/2019

A 10 mile walk on one of the hottest post Bank Holiday Tuesdays ever recorded. Phew! Today’s visit is a final farewell to the Central Line. This time to the north west of London in what was  once the county of Middlesex, but now the suburbia of West Ruislip which is entrenched in the London Borough of Hillingdon.

A particularly challenging day, not only for the distance I travelled, but for the harsh daylight conditions too. I’ve decided to set my camera in black and white mode and a fixed ISO of 100. Ideally I would like to have had a lower setting to help with the harsh lighting, but alas this is a limitation of my camera. One of the outcomes from today is that many of my pictures appear somewhat ‘flat’ in monochrome, but that challenge has been part of the fun in trying to get a well lit and composed picture.

 I’ll let you be the judge.

The Station

The station’s island platform serves two lines with trains arriving and departing every 10 minutes or so. An early 20th Century station which is adjacent to a separate Chilterns Railway station served by a separate entrance but with a walkway joining the two. Although there is nothing particularly striking about the station or its surrounds, the feeling of ‘big brother watching’ is clearly evidenced by this picture of these overhead cameras. They look somewhat sci-fi and menacing as they could easily have appeared as a large winged drone hovering overhead.

At the end of the platform there’s a gateway to the driver’s rest rooms reached up a flight of steps and a gangway across the railway line. And whilst contemplating a shot, the driver of the recently arrived train walks up and we chat. He outlines his itinerary for the day, which includes two return trips to Epping, a lunch stop and rest break in Acton before ending his day, returning home for his tea – all before making his way to Watford to watch his football team play Coventry in the EFL Carabao Cup that evening. I’m pleased for him that Watford won 3-0.

HS2

Whatever your thoughts, views and emotions surrounding the HS2 project, it’s impact on West Ruislip’s residents is clearly set out on notices surrounding the station despite development work having already started just across the road.

And it’s across the road I wander and poke my nose around the West Ruislip Golf Centre. I find I’ve made my way, unchallenged, to the 40 bay driving range and I’m somewhat surprised there’s no one’s about other than a singular golfer whose picking up his golf bag and walking out. All becomes clear as I’m approached by an employee asking me to leave the premises. I explain my purpose and ask if I can take some pictures but I’m told that the business was sold to HS2 the day before and therefore the Golf Centre is no longer an operating business. We exchange a few comments on the impact of HS2, but the employee remains non-committal but her sadness is etched across her face.

Ruislip

Ruislip is very much suburbia at its best and is well served by 5 stations bearing its name (West Ruislip, Ruislip Gardens and South Ruislip all on the Central Line, and Ruislip and Ruislip Manor on the shared Met/Piccadilly Lines). There is little of interest around West Ruislip so I head off to the main town centre which is about a mile away. En Route, I pass Training Ship (TS) Pelican, the Sea Cadet’s home in Ruislip. An otherwise indistinct building but it catches my eye as it reminds me of my days as a Sea Cadet on board TS Hydra which once had a presence on the shores of The Menai in Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic) on the North Wales coast. This was over 50 years ago, but I’m still thankful for the skills I learnt – in particular how to tie knots: the sheepshank, bowline and clove hitch.

The station in Ruislip opened around the same time as its counterpart in West Ruislip and reflected the population growth in suburbia in response to the ingress of the railways into the ‘Metropolitan areas’. This station has a little more character than the one to its west where a well maintained disused signal box has been preserved within the station’s boundaries.

Into the town, I head to its northern approach and browse around Manor Farm and associated buildings. The Manor Farm is a 22-acre historic site incorporating a medieval farm complex, with a main old barn dating from the 13th Century and a farm house from the 16th. Nearby are the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle believed to date from shortly after the Norman conquest.

The buildings have been renovated courtesy of a National Lottery grant, and although the site promotes that it is ‘open’ 365 days of the year, the only accessible building is the Library. A beautifully renovated barn with exposed beams, now filled with rows and rows of books and as part of this summer’s theme, workshops are run for children introducing them to space exploration as part of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing celebrations.

Sadly, I found little else of interest in the immediate vicinity, and unwisely I decided to walk the one and a half miles to Ruislip Gardens. In the searing heat, it was no fun, but equally it was unexciting as I passed rows upon rows of similarly designed houses. The purpose of my sojourn was to return to the Central Line and head for Perivale.

The Hoover Building

As I’m in the vicinity, I decide to head for and explore the iconic art deco style Hoover Building as it would be a shame to pass up on the opportunity to bask in the buildings historic architecture. But before I do, a final mention about the heat: well I can only imagine it is the heat that’s led to my bemusement as I get on the tube at Ruislip Gardens and see this discarded bra on the floor. WTF (sorry) – WTH?! What on earth makes anyone believe it’s OK to just leave such a thing lying around, presumably having been taken off because of the heat; who knows?. I ponder this thought for the ten minutes or so it takes me to travel the four stops to Perivale station.

The Hoover Building is less than ten minutes from the station and in recent years, this Grade II* listed building has been converted into a Tesco Superstore, a Halal Friendly Asian Restaurant (The Royal Naawab), and a collection of 66 luxury apartments. But thankfully all of the iconic features have been retained for everyone to see. I’ll end today’s blog by letting the building speak for itself – well more specifically its original architects: Wallis, Gilbert and Partners

Picture of the Day

I’ve taken this picture within the grounds of Ruislip Manor Farm buildings. In particular within the green area enclosed by the Great Barn, the Library and the Cow Byre Gallery. I’m looking directly at the Great Barn and as I walked through the first time I was struck by the magnificence of the restored buildings, the starkness of the black wooden cladding and the contrast this created with the sun soaked roof tiles. 

Getting the right tone of black is difficult, especially with the sun directly overhead, so I take a few practice shots to get the camera settings just right.

Now I’d seen this lady when I first walked by; she seemed to have stopped for her lunch and is now intently studying her mobile. My first thought is to capture The Barn without her in the frame, but the more I played with my positioning, the more I thought her inclusion helps to set the scene. I deliberate on whether to ask her to stay, but decide against this as it would then have made her conscious of my presence and she may have portrayed a different visage. It’s her intense concentration and complete lack of awareness of her surroundings that I believe adds to the final picture.

I started with a shot from afar which captures too much foreground, so I walk closer to tighten the shot, and then maybe after every 10 steps I take the same picture. In this final shot, I’m probably no more than 3 or 4 metres away and I’m very happy with the outcome. Even as I walk right past her, she still doesn’t acknowledge me, so whatever she’s doing, it’s certainly very riveting.

In post production, I played a little with Google Photos filter settings to get the starkness of the black I was after to represent as close as possible the colour I saw. The ‘Vista’ setting does this justice.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 47mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter effect – Vista; Camera effect – B&W

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metropolitan

#65: Watford – 20/08/2019

Today’s story is a relatively short one and is my penultimate trip on the Metropolitan line. This time to its end at Watford, and this story complements my visit to Watford Junction earlier in the year. My focus is on the north and west of Watford as this is where the station is located; about a mile out of the town centre.

The Station

The station is in an odd location, but its history explains why. In essence, in the early 20th Century the railway line enticed Londoners with its ‘Metro-land’ advertising campaign promoting the new railway as an opportunity to live in a rural location with easy transport to central London. And although it wasn’t intended to be the terminal station, wars, financial challenges and local authority objections resulted in no further development of the line.

The station itself is fairly unexciting, with one central walkway servicing two platforms. Only half of the platform is covered providing shelter from the elements, but the supporting ironmongery nicely displays the met line colouring.

Cassiobury Park

On exiting the station after the morning peak, it feels like a calm suburban sun-washed peaceful day. There are few people about, other than mums with their pushchairs headed for the park through one of it’s two main entrances nearby.

This park has recently been voted as one of the top 10 parks in the UK and I can see why as it’s a place offering a delightful mix of entertainment for the passive and active visitor. It’s heritage trail takes me on a tour explaining the history of the now demolished Cassiobury House, and the tree lined avenues of what was once the main carriageway, glimmer with iridescent sunshine through the magnificent green canopy overhead.

As I walk past the ‘Hub’ and play areas, children are clearly enjoying the attractively developed paddling and splash pools. And as I walk on, I suddenly find I’m singing along to the tune of ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round’ as a mum with two kids on bicycles ride past. I smile as I can’t get the tune out of my head as I follow the path towards a rustic bridge which crosses the River Gade, with dogs and children paddling in the pools on either side.

Just off the path, some carefully placed logs and rocks span the river which entices many a child to cross. Some achieve their goal of getting to the other side without wet feet more successfully than others, and I laugh with them as their parents cross and fail to achieve this. I wait my turn and cross successfully and I explore the leafy undergrowth on the other side.

There are remnants of river management of days gone by alongside a newer weir which becomes the focal point for the trail. I find though I have to return across the stepping stones as the only way to get back….I do so with both feet dry.

A short hop from the weir, and I’m standing by the Grand Union Canal and chat with a couple on route from Rugby to Harefield in their narrow boat. A journey that has taken them over a week so far to reach the Ironbridge Lock (no. 77) that takes them under Cassiobury Park Bridge (no. 167) where several onlookers enjoy the spectacle. The effort of opening the lock is a well practised event, and I’m amazed at the skill of the pilot steering the narrow boat through the bottom gates as only one is opened – there is no room to squeeze anything else through, but the narrow boat is steered through masterfully.

My picture of the day is taken here too, so read about it below.

Watford Football Club

I feel a visit to Watford wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Football Club, so I retrace my steps through the park, into town and out again along Vicarage Road. It’s not a match day, so the streets are relatively quiet and as I pass the cemetery on my right I see the stadium looming up ahead on the left.

There’s a homage to Graham Taylor on the corner outside the Hornets Shop and the Elton John stand is proudly emblazoned on the left where I take this shot. The image nicely demonstrates the effect of the triple exposure when taking a ‘vivid’ shot with the pedestrian, I suspect an employee returning with his lunch, walking through.

Walking around the stadium, it has a clinical exterior, with the building being encased in matt black cladding, with splashes of colour here and there representing the team’s home colours of gold, black and red: a powerful effect.

Watford General Hospital

Next door is the hospital which is a large sprawling site made up of a variety of early and late 20th Century buildings. As with all hospitals of a similar style, you can tell where the boiler room is, as in this case, you can’t ignore the towering chimneys.

Equally evident is the poor state of some of the buildings, which is somewhat symptomatic of a lack of building investment. This image undermines the great work carried out by the NHS, and it doesn’t help that it’s directly on the main road by the main entrance so casual visitors to the hospital may well perceive a false impression of the hospital’s overall service.

Picture of the Day

This is Cassiobury Park Bridge (No. 167) besides Ironbridge Lock (No. 77) on the Grand Union Canal as it flows through Cassiobury Park. After seeing a narrow boat through the lock, I wander around it and under the bridge and notice the sunlight shimmering off the canal surface iridescently onto the underside of the bridge.

I’ve taken this shot using a vivid art effect on the camera, and in post production, I’ve applied the green Alpaca filter from Google Photos. The effect is quite mesmerising, particularly with the water reflection continuously changing its display on the underside of the bridge. The combined effect not only saturates the greens, but adds a sparkle to the story as your eyes are drawn to the rustic lock gates..

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5; Shutter Speed – 1/250; Focal Length – 36mm; Film Speed – ISO640; Google filter effect – Alpaca; Camera effect – HDR art vivid

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overground

#64: Dalston Junction – 13/08/2019

In my Battersea Park blog, I mentioned the existence of parliamentary trains, better known as ghost trains, and Dalston Junction is the other end of such a service shuttling between these two stations. So somewhat surprised to be visiting here, but it resulted in an interesting day.

And, carrying on with my theme of understanding my camera, I played with more creative filters today. In addition to the grainy black & white effect, I also explored the effects of the ‘high dynamic range settings’ which offered four options – the two I seemed to settle on are the ones creating an ‘art bold’ and an ‘art vivid’ effect whereby the colours are saturated making the pictures look like an oil painting or creating a graphic art effect respectively. I’ll let you be the judge, but here’s my story…

The Station

This is a relatively new station, having only opened in 2010 and it is the natural end of the service to/from New Cross; so another reason to be here. A busy station servicing several Overground lines through to Highbury & Islington to the north west and New Cross, Crystal Palace, Clapham Junction and West Croydon to the south.

It’s made up of four platforms; the two central platforms for the New Cross service and the outer platforms for the through services. The station is proud of its Orange roundels and colour scheme which are so blatant and in a nerdy way, quite eye catching.

Dalston

I’ve only once been to Dalston before; it was many years ago and work related; it wasn’t a pleasant visit in what was regarded as a depressed and drug riddled area; so my expectations were somewhat biased. And I am nicely surprised when I find I’m walking through a regenerated, yet characterful area.

Immediately out of the station I see a large wall mural which on close inspection is the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural designed by Ray Walker and painted by Mike Jones and Anna Walker after the artist’s death.

The mural is adjacent to a low key entrance to the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, but once I walk through the tunnelled entrance, I find an amazing space designed for fun, peace, tranquillity and learning. The space is being enjoyed by couples, children and those working in solitude in this relaxing space. DO take a walk in if you’re in the neighbourhood as it’s a beautiful and calming space.

On exiting, I follow a stream of pedestrians who are walking purposefully, but I know not where…until I find I’m in Dalston Kingsland, which in all honesty is just around the corner. Although on this route it was round a few corners but the short-cut leads to a thriving area and the home of Ridley Road market. A market that runs the length from its junction with the main A10 Kingsland High Street and St Mark’s Rise, some 300m long.

The market is full of shoppers jostling their way through the myriad of fruit & veg, fish, clothes, materials and bric-a-brac stalls, with everyone looking for the elusive bargain. On either side of the stalls is an array of small shops offering up more variety to those goods on display in the market stalls. I join the shoppers in weaving in and out of the stalls and through the adjacent Kingsland Shopping Centre which offers more of the same, but in slightly better surroundings.

Down the A10

This is the main drag into London, and consequently it’s pretty busy. A wide, arterial road full of delightful surprises as it passes through De Beauvoir, Haggerston, Hoxton and Shoreditch. The Overground line runs in parallel just behind the eastern edge of the road.

My first stop is a nod to a local family run business at the corner of Englefield Road with what looks like a traditional – and by that I mean olde worlde – original ironmongery where you can get things cut to size. An attractive store that monopolises the corner on both sides – this is the delight of KTS The Corner.

My next is at an interesting dilapidated factory in Hertford Road. As I turn into the road and see it’s current run down state, I have a wicked thought, and one that might resonate with a populist view about our recently appointed Prime Minister – Boris Johnson. And that’s why I spend a little time trying to get the right quality of image to encapsulate this. The Boris Limited factory, once a proud manufacturer of bags and luggage, now stands dishevelled and broken. I think this image does just that.

Returning on to the A10, I pass some modern apartments with an aquatic theme; namely ‘Quebec Wharf’ and ‘Kingsland Wharves’, and I realise these have been built backing onto Kingsland Basin which feeds off the Regent’s Canal I’m about to cross. Although the bridge is a little unassuming, buildings in its immediate vicinity make a bold colourful statement as they are adorned with some amazing street art. The ones that catch my eye include:

Charlie Hudson, a recent mural judging by the date (‘19) on the corner of Orsman Road, and at the time of writing I’m trying to confirm the mural’s authenticity.

Otto Schade, a mural by the Chilean artist, on the corner with Phillipp Street, and I now realise I first saw Otto’s work in Croydon during the street art festival in 2018 – see here.

Heading south into Hoxton, I come to the Geffrye museum of the home. Although closed until 2020 as it undergoes redevelopment, its walled garden offers surprising peace and tranquillity from the main road, and the space is currently being used for theatre productions. A delightful little spot.

Finally, under the railway bridge as I approach Shoreditch, I take a side step into Cottons Garden’s, an alley once filled with warehouses but now converted into fashionable offices and apartments. As I admire the architecture, the sun shines through one of the buildings and I capture this image of the intricate glassware, frame and reflection along with the sun through the building and the ghostly vision of this photographer.

Shoreditch and Old Street

My recent years of working in Aldgate has led me on quite a few forays into the Shoreditch area, and the one thing that amuses me is my ability to lose my bearings quite easily as side streets twist and turn. And despite efforts to ‘follow the sun’, today is no exception – but you know what? That’s half the fun of walking the streets like this.

One of my stopping points is at a building site along the length of Blackall Street at its corner with Ravey Street. I mention the location as it’s the site of my ‘picture of the day’, so read more below. But as I explore the alley between the rear of small offices and hoardings around a building site, I capture this image of today’s continuing health hazards.

A short hop around the corner, I walk past Westland at St Michael’s Church and I spot their sign which says ‘visitors welcome’ so in I pop. They are a reseller of fine architectural antiques on a grand scale, and the old church is full of articles that wouldn’t look out of place in a grand gothic castle or mansion. If you’re looking for the unusual and have the space (and the cash), then this is the place to look for that unique piece.

I end the day admiring a contrast in building architecture. These two stand out and help to demonstrate the beauty in each type. The first overlooking a car park in Clare Street, with it’s brickwork and variety of casement windows looking gritty in the black and white shot…

…and this second, of the Children’s Eye Centre, part of the well known Moorfields Eye Hospital, in Peerless Street representing a modernist twist.

Picture of the Day

Although today’s journey started at Dalston Junction, this picture is taken at the corner of Blackall Street and Ravey Street in Shoreditch. There’s a new building here where passers-by are admiring its fancy facia and a below ground coffee house and seating area. However, I’m more interested in the view along the side of Blackall Street, now almost an alley due to hoarding surrounding another new build, blocking most of the street. There’s just enough room to squeeze through, and because of its limited accessibility, I suspect that’s created an opportunity for graffiti artists to practice their art. I played with the HDR settings on this shot to create an oversaturated effect with the colour scape.

The artwork, its vividness and alley effect peering in on workmen in high-vis jackets at the far end of the street creates a colourful, gritty urban memory. One I think that reflects the day I’ve had today. 

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/320; Focal Length – 55mm; Film Speed – ISO1250; Google filter effect – Alpaca; Camera effect – HDR art vivid

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metropolitan piccadilly

#63: Uxbridge – 07/08/2019

Today’s a creative day shooting predominantly in Black & White once I’d finished  exploring the main station area; I’ll explain why a little later. But first, it’s to the end of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines at Uxbridge, the journey takes me almost from one end of the Metropolitan line at Liverpool Street to Uxbridge. I had thought maybe travelling to Aldgate (one stop) in the opposite direction to lay claim to a complete end to end journey – but I didn’t.

The Station

The station has three platforms with a two level concrete canopy. The higher level over the middle platform which serves the Metropolitan line, and a lower canopy over the outer platforms serving the Piccadilly line. This maybe because the Metropolitan line trains are taller than the Piccadilly line trains, but I’ve no evidence to substantiate this.

I didn’t know this, but until the mid 1930’s, the station was served by the District line, but the service was taken over by the Piccadilly line which now serves as the main artery from Ealing Broadway.

The concrete canopy extends from the platforms over the booking hall which is overlooked by colourful stained glass representing the area’s association with the counties of Middlesex and Buckinghamshire before the creation of the London Borough of Hillingdon. You can’t see the stained glass from the front, but adorning the entrance from the outside are a pair of winged wheels in an art deco style.

On the north eastern approach to the station, there are large sidings, empty at the time of my visit, presumably for the overnight storage of trains at the end of the day. As an aside, getting to the station was trouble free, but my journey back was blighted by a points failure at Ickenham which affected the Piccadilly trains but thankfully the Metropolitan line had a reduced service allowing me to travel as far as Rayners Lane where I could pick up the limited Piccadilly line service.

Uxbridge

The town centre is largely pedestrianised dominated by the railway and bus station at one end, and Hillingdon Council offices at the other end. The council offices are in the main, a collection of brick monstrosities – functional but soulless, featureless and uninviting.

The town centre is a mix of local independent shops and the obvious high street stores, all overlooked by two shopping centres: the more modern Intu Centre and a classic 60’s style concrete Pavilions centre. Both centres host the standard larger retail stores and both are served by large car parks which are accessed via the ring road surrounding the town centre.

Walking around the town, I find few things of interest, although this cutting from the Intu centre to the High Street provides a colourful interlude. And on the outskirts, I see this wall mural in homage to a local landowner, Kate Fassnidge, who bequeathed the park land now known as Fassnidge Park to the District Council.

I take a walk through the park, and see many doing the same and enjoying the shade under the trees as they eat their lunch. The Fray’s River runs through to the adjoining Rockingham recreation ground serving as a conduit for the local ducks and swans. The birds are clustered around an elderly lady feeding them on the river bank by the bridge at Rockingham Road.

A study in Black & White

By this point, I realise I’ve taken very few pictures and I’m starting to think about how best to represent my visit to Uxbridge. The overarching architectural feature is concrete and brickwork, and as I return to the town, I find I’m at the car park entrance of The Pavilions shopping centre looking up at the footbridge that allows pedestrians to access from the other side of the ring road at Oxford Road.

I have an idea: One of my aims in following this ‘end of the line’ journey is to fall back in love with digital photography, and to this end with my current camera. I decide to set a filter on my camera to ‘Grainy B/W’, and leave it in this setting mode for the rest of the day. And as I do, I find I’m transported back to the early 1970’s, a time  when I used to develop my own pictures using B&W film.

Around the back of the shopping centre, I spot a large wooden clad shed. It turns out to be a local taxi firm, and I’m intrigued by its character which stands out so well with its graininess accentuated in black and white.

Through a little alleyway, I enter Windsor Street where I find a parade of small beauty and health related businesses and this is where I meet Reez, Rosh and Graeme. You see, as I pass Reez the Barbers, I’m drawn to the scene of two barbers meticulously tending a customer’s beard as they trim it. As they are right by the front door I stop to admire the precision with which Reez and Rosh are operating and chat to them and Graeme, their customer who are all kind enough to allow me to take some pictures. 

Around the corner is the Charter Building. Once the headquarters of Coca Cola, it has now been refurbished into a fashionable workspace, a growing concept across the city where businesses can rent flexible workspace as their businesses grow. As I explore inside the building, I notice some similarities with The Whitechapel Building in Aldgate, where I last worked for the Government Digital Service. I chat with Tigi and Tehlia, the building receptionists who give me permission to take some internal photos.

Battle of Britain Bunker

I start following a sign for the Battle of Britain Bunker and a half hour later I arrive at my destination to find out two things: I’d just walked three sides of a square to get here as I had in fact followed the road signs instead of a shortcut footpath. And although the venue was open, it has just closed its admissions for the day. Argh! But not to worry as I’ll visit again on my return to Uxbridge. There’s enough outside interest to explore before heading back to the station through Dowding Park.

Picture of the Day

I spent most of the day with my camera set in Black & White mode, and this picture comes from that collection. The graininess I’ve applied to this picture adds a particular edge to it which I think works well. I’m standing on the footbridge over the Oxford Road leading to the car park entrance to The Pavilions shopping centre.

The concrete and graffiti stand out and whilst I’m trying to get the right lighting effect, there’s an elderly gent walking down the ramp trying to avoid being in the picture. I respect his desire for anonymity and leave him to walk out of sight, but think that the photo would be better with someone in it. 

I move onto the lower part of the ramp looking up. With the sun casting strong shadows, I line up the metal handrail on the right hand side so that my eye is drawn to the graffiti on the end wall. And as I’m crouched low, trying to emphasise the rising ramp, I wait for someone to walk into the shot. This gentleman obliges, unaware of my presence, apparently distracted by his mobile conversation – thank you.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 51mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Eiffel

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hammersmith & city overground

#62: Barking – 30/07/2019

One of the unexpected delights of this travelog is the richness of the people I meet who have their own story to tell and help make the places I visit so rewarding. And my return to Barking has certainly had more than its fair share of that; more later but first why am I returning here?

Well Barking is the terminal destination for twoTfl lines. My first visit over nine months ago was courtesy of the Overground, and today it’s for the end of the Hammersmith & City line. Weather warning though; the forecast was miserable and although I was able to dodge the hardest rain, I decided not to let the persistent drizzle get in my way.

The Station

With eight platforms serving The Overground, District, Hammersmith & City and the c2c, this is a busy station, but desperately in need of modernisation. Classically styled predominantly in concrete, it has a very tired functional feel to it; but thankfully there are plans to regenerate the area although at the time of writing it’s unclear when this will be done. The main street level concourse is cavernous with a high vaulted concrete roof which I suspect on warmer days makes the area unbearably hot, and there are attempts to revamp the platform furniture with Tfl styled seating.

I find I’m being heckled by Sakhib, a train driver who’s walking to the front of a District line train he’s about to take out of the station. Once I’ve explained my purpose, and that I’m not a train spotter, he is keen to share a recent event at the station where he was invited onto the footplate of a steam train as it travelled through the station. We can’t chat for long as his signal is changing to green.

On another platform, I meet Geoff, a train spotter from Inverness who has spent the morning in Bethnal Green and now he is eager to spot the new Overground trains to complete his collection of the group of trains serving that line. A well travelled, and seasoned trainspotter, he is happy to share some of his European travel stories with me and I’m amazed by his depth of detailed knowledge, but guess given this is his passion, I shouldn’t be surprised really.

As I explore the platforms, I’m tickled by the thought that one of the signs I see may have been a legacy of a visit by David Hasslehoff. Now I know this is highly unlikely but it helps to lift my mood on this wet day.

Barking Enterprise Centre (BEC)

Heading out of the station, I’m drawn to a pop-up photographic exhibition where I meet Alison, the volunteer of the day looking after the exhibition. In its first exhibition, the BEC is showcasing a local photographer whose work is on display, and I admire the starkness of the black and white street photography taken by Jimmy Lee who’s recently published a book of a collection of his work along with individual prints for sale.

I explain my photographic background and approach with Alison who in turn comments on the similarity this has with Jimmy’s approach and she encourages me to connect with him (which I do later). Alison is a warm and friendly individual and I find it easy to strike up a conversation, and as we chat, I take a series of portrait shots catching her in an ‘off guard’ moment. I try to choose which is the best shot, but I think this collage best shows off Alison’s personality. Thank you Alison for your warmth and friendliness and for introducing me to Jimmy Lee. I look forward to having that drink with you one day…

Barking Park

Any London park is worth a visit, and Barking’s is no different which is only a short walk from the station. Unsurprisingly, the rain soaked day has kept people away so I feel a little isolated as I walk through the skateboard park heading to the lake. And as I approach it, I’m greeted by a large flock of Canada Geese feeding on the grass verge and I try to line up a shot of the parked up pedalos in the distance.

Sheltering under the tree lined avenue, I see four people pushing a shopping trolley walking along the lake side as I’m changing my camera lens, and as they get nearer, I realise they’re not wayward travellers but in fact a party of Park Rangers and volunteers. Carol, the team lead introduces herself and explains that every Tuesday she and a team of volunteers trawl the lake for discarded litter, plastic and/or anything else that’s been thrown into the lake. Their day is drawing to the end having collected several trolleys full of rubbish so we say farewell as I meander along the lake side and enjoy the array of birdlife.

As well as the Canada Geese, the lake is awash with nesting coots, seagulls, swans and ducks, and one solitary Heron perched on a single leg (his right I recall) on the far side of the lake as if he’s supervising all the other water birds. Here’s a brief snapshot of the waterfowl collection.

Later, as I head out of the park, I’m beckoned by Hubbard, a gent standing under the trees who’s indicated he’s ready to have his picture taken. Always happy to oblige a willing volunteer, I approach and despite the fact he’s talking on his mobile it seems we end up having a three way conversation. I’ve no idea who is on the other end of the line, but I do note that Hubbard is also enjoying a lunch time drink from a can of Guinness.

The Road to Ilford

Out of the park, and lo and behold the sun comes out and it suddenly warms up very quickly, so I decide to head up Ilford Lane to Ilford. From previous travels, I know this to be an interesting walk past many shops displaying colourful saris in their shop windows. On one corner, I’m distracted by Cleveland Junior School which has two bright blue clocks on display high on one of its walls. Both showing the same time, but one with Roman numerals and one with ordinary numbers.

I hadn’t realised until I started writing this blog that some clocks that adopt Roman numerals will display 4 o’clock as either IIII or IV. If you’re interested in finding out why, here’s an article that offers several hypotheses.

And finally, the underpass leading from Ilford Lane into Ilford is an unattractive, gloomy and depressing location, and I have walked through here before in full sight of drug dealing. Today’s passing is slightly different and as I emerge, I quite like this final shot of a high rise office block which has an interesting pattern highlighted in black and white. What do you think?

Picture of the Day

I’m trying out several long distance focal length shots: to highlight the yellow boat against the blue pedalos, and to show how they’re framed by the two tone greens of the overhanging trees in the foreground and the trees in the background. But I felt there was something missing in the final composition so I took some with geese in the foreground, but that didn’t quite work either.

Then, whilst I was kneeling and getting wet, there was a teenage lad cycling in the foreground. I waited for him to get out of the shot, but he suddenly appeared with a stick in his hand as if he was fishing. And as he appeared I snatched a few shots in case he didn’t return. I knew it was just right as he brought a human element to the shot, and thereby helping to balance the otherwise stillness of the picture.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/800; Focal Length – 230mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO640; Google Photo Filter – Alpaca

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district overground

#61: Upminster – 24/07/2019

If you want to find out why there’s a vague reference to Donald Trump in today’s blog, then read on – but don’t get too excited!

Upminster is local to me as I only live 3.5 miles away, so I’m somewhat familiar with the location. Consequently I try to stay objective and behave in the same way as with all my other visits. It’s a hard and harsh day weatherwise, as it’s a record breaking sunny day; not ideal for walking about, so I make sure I take on plenty of fluids and walk as much in the shade as possible.

Knowing I’ll be returning to Upminster again as the station serves as the terminus for both the District and Overground lines, I decide to take a somewhat rural view of this suburban town today.

The Station

Upminster is a surprisingly  busy station serving the two Tfl’s lines and c2c’s destinations through Essex to Grays, Southend and Shoeburyness, and today I arrive on the Overground from Romford. This single track line is one of the latest to join the Tfl network, and other than the two end destinations, it has only one other station (Emerson Park) roughly half way along its 5 kilometre journey.

The shuttle service runs every half hour taking just 9 minutes each way and I learn from the driver that each driver does just 9 back to back journeys a day as their daily routine.

As I explore the station, I watch a number of high-vis clad Network Rail workers as they manhandle sacks of ballast from the start of Platform 1, along its length,  up and down 50 steps over a bridge to platform 2 and then to the end of that platform where engineering work is to take place later. In the heat of the day, this was beyond physical, and the effort and heat are understandably taking their toll on the speed with which they work. Nevertheless, there are a couple of workers determined to carry two sacks at shoulder height to help shorten the overall time being taken.

As I leave the station, I spot some advertising for a mobile phone app to help find water refilling stations across London. On downloading it I find it’s a national service and try it out. Refill is a scheme encouraging local retailers to offer free water refills to customers to help reduce/avoid plastic pollution, and I note there are three outlets in Upminster: Costa (2) and Greggs. I try the service out during the course of my visit and confess that both suppliers were more than happy to accommodate my request for a refill even though I wasn’t buying anything from them. I later tried it in Brentwood Costa with the same success, so it’s well worth trying it.

Tfl’s end of the line depot is 1.5 Km further east in Cranham, where their rolling stock is maintained and stored overnight. Out of interest I make my way over but alas high fencing and shrubbery prevents me being able to see anything substantial. Nevertheless, I’m drawn to the landmark that is the lighting tower that can be seen from afar, and I talk with Mike, the driver of the 248 bus service to Romford Market who’s taking a break at the nearby bus terminus. He’s a Norfolk lad who tells me of his enjoyment of writing music and he plays one of his demo’s from his phone whilst he’s finishing his cigarette before starting his journey. Although not a performing band, they play under the name of ‘Lyric Assassins’.

In the Country

The walk from Cranham takes me past ‘Pond Walk’, a protected wildlife pond, but it seems that all the inhabitants are out for the day as both the pond and the island’s sole dwelling are empty. Maybe it’s too hot for them in the midday sun?

Onwards up The Chase, a narrow single track lane laced with private secure gated bespoke houses along its length. The walk is very much a country walk as I pass several wheat fields that look ready for harvesting and spot Upminster’s Windmill towering in the distance.

At the top of the lane, I reach my signposted destination: The Parish Church of All Saints Cranham. The church has a rich history with links to the foundation of the state of Georgia in the USA, and the present building reflects the early English architectural style. The church is attractive and has the appearance of being well cared for, but a walk around the back of the churchyard shows some neglect as the gravestones are overgrown with grass and weeds and the path a little difficult to navigate. Nevertheless it’s a very pleasant English country setting.

Heading back towards Upminster, I take a gander into Clockhouse Gardens, a public garden and wildfowl haven discreetly tucked behind the appropriately named Clockhouse. As I enter the garden, I find I’m confronted by a flock of Canada geese ground feeding everywhere around a pond full of a variety of ducks. And towards the centre of the pond, perched on a small rocky outcrop is a trio of terrapins basking in the sun.

There’s a mum and small child enjoying the spectacle and I turn my head to see what they’ve spotted as the mum says ‘…look at that duck with the funny thing on its head…’. And whilst I don’t know it yet, its here I meet Donald Trump. You can read about my encounter below in my ‘Picture of the Day’.

On the shadier far side of the garden, several ladies are resting and enjoying the relative solitude. It’s in a wooded area clearly set out as a children’s reading spot with carved animal characters and little toadstools set out in a reading circle and the wizard of the wood overseeing  his domain.

Back into Town

As the crow flies, the windmill is 1.6 km’s from The Parish Church of All Saints Cranham, but in reality it’s a slow 2.25 km walk along the length of St Mary’s Lane in the basking sun. I’m a little disappointed when I get there as I find the area is a building site and the windmill is without its cap, sails and gallery. But that takes nothing away from the restoration work that’s been going on over the last two years by way of returning the mill to its former glory. Over two miles of weatherboarding has recently been applied and painted and the shape of the windmill is clear to see, and along with the recently opened visitor centre, full access is to the windmill is expected in Spring next year.

The main shopping area runs from the station down Corbets Tey Road, and the shops are a mix of small local businesses, fashion and beauty. But if you look up above the ground floor ‘marketing noise’ you’ll see the hidden exterior of the early 20th century art deco style architecture, looking a little tired and in need of sprucing up.

Picture of the Day

Meet Donald Trump…well it’s a name I’ve seen given to this type of crested duck on the internet, and I can sort of understand why with its glorious bouffoned crest beautifully coiffed in an elegant ‘comb over’ effect. This duck clearly stood out from the crowd as it was the only one of this type I could see, as it waddled majestically amongst all the other ducks.

The picture was a little tricky to capture as I’m using the barrel of my 75-300 mm lens as the only stabiliser, so the risk of camera shake is high. The lighting is also tricky as the duck is in a shaded area which is heavily backlit by the sun creating a contrasting light & shade effect. The shot is taken almost at ground level resting the camera on the low level fencing surrounding a pond.

I’ve tried to find out the breed, and the closest I’ve got to determining this is that it’s a Crested Saxony as identified by the Domestic Waterfowl Club of Great Britain. Although the crested gene can be grown into most duck breeds, it does nevertheless have a breeding consequence as not all eggs will result in a successful hatchling.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/1000; Focal Length – 255mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO5000; Google Photo Filter – Palma

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#60: Epping – 18/07/2019

I have a confession to make. In all my 30 years living in Romford, I have only once passed through Epping, a mere 12 miles away and only half an hour by car. That one pass through was on a heritage bus operated by the Epping Ongar Railway as part of a Christmas Special which picked us up by Epping Station and took us to North Weald station where we enjoyed the steam train journey to Ongar and to the edge of Epping station and back to North Weald. A glorious bright but crisp winter’s day with the grand-children who enjoyed the Santa Express. A trip I’d highly recommend.

You see the Central line did once run through from Epping to Ongar, but this service was closed in 1994, and thereafter that part of the line was sold off, and subsequently bought as a heritage railway.

The Station

This is the third most northerly underground station on the Tfl network just behind Chesham and Cheshunt. But it does boast of having the longest possible journey on the Underground without changing trains to West Ruislip, and according to the train driver I chatted with who was waiting on a red signal, takes about 100 minutes to travel the 55 kilometers through the 36 stations en route. The driver, a keen golfer, was in a particularly happy mood as after the four round trips he would make today, he’d be returning home to his family in Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain for a four week holiday.

I was once told, during my early commuting in London, that if I applied a rough rule of thumb that station stops are every three minutes, I’d have a good guesstimate of the length of my journey. And I’ve used this ever since when planning routes if in a hurry to catch a timed event.; obviously this excludes any disruptions of course.

The station is fairly typical of those built in the mid 19th century but because of its rural location the railway lines are emphasised by the long curving arch of the tracks as they approach the station. And as I stand on the railway bridge at the bottom of Bower Hill, the state of the tracks are somewhat contrasted as I look along the disused line in the other direction.

This next image is pure indulgence on my part as whenever I see these numbered markers on the side of any railway line, I’m always reminded of a scene from Douglas Adams’ ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ film. The one where after crash landing on Vogosphere, Ford, Zaphod, Arthur, and Marvin cross a wide expanse where they are tormented by shovel-like creatures that slap them in the face whenever they think of an idea. It’s an amusing thought as I wonder how many railway workers have had a similar fate as these shovel-like markers sprung from the ground? Childish I know… 🙂

The Market Town of Epping

Although mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, I am somewhat underwhelmed by what the market town has to offer by its lack of character and architectural features. So much so I had to walk the length of the High Street twice to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. However I am sure had I visited on a Monday when the Market is here, I would have a different impression, especially as I read from their website that the market was the place to buy a wife! Nevertheless, The High Street is busy with shoppers enjoying the array of predominantly independent shops and eateries.

The town centre is dominated by the impressively built, Gothic style St John the Baptist Church, with its dominant clock tower; and directly opposite there’s a row of old and tired looking cottages in the style of early American colonial architecture.

Similar to many other market towns, Epping has done much to recognise those who have contributed to the community by the erection of blue plaques on the relevant building. And it’s because of these I now know what Dr Joseph Clegg achieved in the late 19th century – that of improving the water and sanitation conditions of the town through the erection of its water tower.

Gnomes and Fish

There’s a simple pleasure in walking around places I haven’t been to before as I see things from a fresh perspective. Some images I find amusing and with those I stop and talk with, I learn of new life experiences. This is the case with the next two images. The first in the shop window of Lathams, one of two shops catering for contemporary interior design in Essex and Hertfordshire. I walked past the shop window and smiled at this scene, and on my second route around the High Street I decided to walk in, and when asked, the assistant was more than happy for me to take a series of pictures. This one represents what I believe to be a humorous and imaginative display.

At the other end of the High Street, in a courtyard between the Sorting Office and a butchers, I met Noel McRae, a fresh fish reseller from Grimsby. Noel is a little reticent at first to chat, but after I explained what I was doing he was happy to share his story. Originally a trawlerman who caught and processed his fish, he explained that the trawlerman’s life is much harder these days; partly due to depleting stocks and the international competition and partly to age. He now concentrates on travelling across the country in his van selling freshly caught cod, haddock and salmon and some smoked trout. I’m pleased that Noel is happy to pose as he explains his return to Grimsby later in the afternoon will see him stop several times at pubs where he has a regular trade.

I shared one story of my own with him when, as a very young lad, I was out with my father fishing for sewin off the wooden jetty in Aberystwyth and I recall my father’s split cane rod bending back upon itself and snapping under the strain of the fish he caught. Alas he didn’t land the fish because of this.

Theydon Bois and Debden

Journeying back from Epping, I stop at the next two stations out of curiosity and out of hope of spotting something inspirational. Alas, and by the time you read this, you will have missed the Tortoise Racing at the 109th Annual Horticultural Show in Theydon Bois, a sleepy little hamlet of a few shops and a large green. Debden, equally unimpressive, stylised by The Broadway; a sweeping arc of mid 20th century flats sitting above a parade of shops.

Picture of the Day

This is the covered footbridge over the railway line by Epping station joining Station Approach with Hillcrest Way and onwards onto Bower Hill. No doubt a much used footbridge when the side entrance from the station into Hillcrest Way is closed, but equally an unloved one judging by its state. A narrow bridge with just enough room for two people to pass side by side, and covered with a metal cage to allow some light in and to prevent anything and anyone (yes) being thrown onto the railway track below, as now prescribed by current highway standards.

The wide angle shot is taken to draw the eye down the tunnel and accentuate the grill effect of its covered meshwork. In doing so, highlighting its necessary yet unwelcoming feel and one you probably would think twice about walking through on a dark evening. The picture has been manipulated using a Google Photo ‘Reel’ filter to enhance the colour contrast.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ8; Shutter Speed – 1/160; Focal Length – 18mm (75-300mm zoom); Film Speed – ISO250; Google Photo Filter – Reel

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